Put it in your mouth: Tasty cui­sine off the radar

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

This week, we’re go­ing to a pizze­ria and a churrascaria. You’ll like them both, for their food and their price.

The lat­est pizze­ria to open in Mid­town is

At­woods Pizza Café (817 W. Peachtree St., 404-748-9577, at­wood­spizza.com).

It’s lo­cated in a cor­ner of the gar­gan­tuan Bilt­more Ho­tel, con­structed in 1924. The build­ing, re­cently ac­quired by Ge­or­gia Tech, is now mainly of­fice space for techies.

Con­sid­er­ing its lo­ca­tion across from stu­dent-swarm­ing Tech­nol­ogy Square, it’s not sur­pris­ing that the café is in­ex­pen­sive. Granted, the pizza qual­ity is not the best in town, but Ex­ec­u­tive Chef Rob Phillip’s pies cer­tainly rank way above chain op­er­a­tions. You pay about a $1 an inch—typ­i­cally $8 for an 8-inch pie at lunch and $12 for 12 inches at din­ner­time (white pies run a bit higher than the red ones).

What makes the pies spe­cial? Chef Phillips is in­spired by the thin Neapoli­tan style that has be­come so pop­u­lar in At­lanta. But he gives us firmer, al­most crispy pies in­stead of the clas­sic gooey Neapoli­tans.

You can build your own or or­der one of the 11 com­posed pies. I’ve tried seven of them. My fa­vorite of the reds was the Fes­ti­val, slightly spicy and a bit sweet, com­bin­ing pep­padew pep­pers, sweet fen­nel sausage, fior di latte moz­zarella, caramelized onions, and gar­lic con­fit. Of the white piz­zas, my fa­vorite was the Zucca with roasted but­ter­nut squash, kale, caramelized onion, pancetta, and fior di latte. I don’t usu­ally like piz­zas with meat, but Phillips doesn’t over­load the pies so that the meats dom­i­nate all other fla­vors. Even the “Sho Me Your Roni”—the only pizza with two meats (fen­nel sausage and pep­per­oni)—demon­strates re­straint. Now, of course, you are free to cre­ate your own meaty garbage heaps.

I was dis­ap­pointed that the meat­less margherita, the usual test of any pizze­ria, was bizarrely ro­coco with four cheeses that con­fused my mouth – a shame since among them is lus­cious bur­rata. Still, my only se­ri­ous dis­like was the white Tartufo, piled with taste­less crem­ini mush­rooms, fla­vored with The Fes­ti­val pizza topped with pep­padew pep­pers, sweet fen­nel sausage, moz­zarella and caramelized onions at At­woods Pizza Café. (Photo by Cliff Bo­s­tock) white truf­fle oil, a sub­stance that should be forced into manda­tory ex­tinc­tion.

At­woods also of­fers sal­ads, soup and six sand­wiches ($8.50-$10). Warn­ing: seat­ing is lim­ited to a few com­mu­nity ta­bles and a small pa­tio.

If you want an af­ford­able ver­sion of a Brazil­ian churrascaria, head to

Rio de Janeiro (1260 Pow­ers Ferry. Rd, Ma­ri­etta, 770952-9556).

It’s just off I-75, so it’s ac­tu­ally a brief drive from the Big City.

For about $15 at din­ner – less at lunch – you get all-you-can-eat meats grilled be­hind the counter. There’s ev­ery­thing from steak to chicken hearts (which I love). The price in­cludes un­lim­ited ac­cess to a buf­fet of sal­ads and a few odd­i­ties like a kind of Brazil­ian lasagna. What wasn’t there was fe­joada, the tra­di­tional Brazil­ian stew I love. It is only avail­able week­ends.

Be warned: If you are look­ing for pretty, you won’t find it here. It’s a homey café with no dé­cor and lim­ited ser­vice. Dur­ing my visit with four friends, there were only two em­ploy­ees on the premises and we didn’t hear any clear de­scrip­tions of the food in English. But that doesn’t mat­ter. You get to eat all you want, so it’s a great ad­ven­ture.

Cliff Bo­s­tock, PhD, is a long­time At­lanta food critic and for­mer psy­chother­a­pist who now prac­tices life coach­ing for cre­ative types; 404-518-4415.

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